Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today urged the administration to more effectively combat human rights abusers and those involved in corruption, specifically in Venezuela, El Salvador, Haiti and Colombia’s FARC. Rubio made his comments during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on global corruption.
“There are people involved in the Maduro regime who are spending their weekends in Miami spending the money they’re stealing from the Venezuelan people, while people in Venezuela, a rich country by the way, are rummaging through garbage in the streets every day for basic goods,” said Rubio. “It makes no sense to me.
“Then you’ve got the right hand man of the president of El Salvador, Jose Luis Moreno. This guy is a top-notch, world class money launderer, armed smuggler for the FARC, as well as corrupt Venezuelan officials, why is this guy not sanctioned?” Rubio asked.
A partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below. A video is available here, and a broadcast quality video available for download is available here.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
June 30, 2016
Senator Marco Rubio: “We have on numerous occasions, passed different tools now available to the administration. For example, the ‘Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act’ that we’re trying to get reauthorized, gives the administration the power to punish human rights abusers and those involved in corruption.
“So in Venezuela, the principle henchman backing the autocratic Maduro regime, according to multiple published sources, everybody knows it, it’s one of those things everybody knows, are cocaine smugglers, money launderers.
“For example, Diosdado Cabello, one of the leaders of Maduro’s party, Tareck el-Aissami, and there’s just dozens of security officials and political leaders who are being investigated for this. Not to mention, dozens more of Venezuelan officials who have looted state-run enterprises, manipulate currency for their own pocketbook, and stealing from the people of this country while people are roaming the streets looking for food.
“Why hasn’t Cabello or El-Aissami or any of these other thugs, why haven’t these top-notch, high level people been sanctioned?”
“Well again, I just think these two individuals, Cabello, who was the biggest thief among all of them, and Tareck el-Aissami, in particular, are people that we should be focused on. It’s not even a mystery, they don’t even seem to hide it, and it’s just shocking to me that we haven’t taken them, because we’ve done this against other people in other parts of the world and we’ve named them and the world knows now that they have a visa ban.
“There are people involved in the Maduro regime who are spending their weekends in Miami spending the money they’re stealing from the Venezuelan people, while people in Venezuela, a rich country by the way, are rummaging through garbage in the streets every day for basic goods. It makes no sense to me.
“Then you’ve got the right hand man of the president of El Salvador, Jose Luis Merino. This guy is a top-notch, world class money launderer, armed smuggler for the FARC, as well as corrupt Venezuelan officials, why is this guy not sanctioned?”
The Honorable Tomasz P. Malinowski, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: That one I’ll have to take back, Senator.
Rubio: “What about the FARC? You’re familiar with them. This is a group that profits from cocaine smuggling, earning probably close to a billion dollars annually, according to Colombian authorities and other informed sources. What is our status with them via Visa (V) sanctioning them?”
Malinowski: “As far as I recall, they’re on the FTO list and they have been sanctioned over the years.”
Rubio: “Economically, and not just named as a terrorist organization. Are we actively targeting their money as they move them across territories and borders?”
Malinowski: “I believe over the years, as a named Foreign Terrorist Organization, that we have done so, yes.”
Rubio: “And that won’t be impacted by the peace deal? Has there been any discussion between the Colombian government and ours about easing any of that as a result of this peace agreement between the President of Colombia just signed and the FARC?”
Malinowski: “We support peace in Colombia, but I think we have been clear that in terms of our law enforcement and other equities that, that remains.”
Rubio: “The United States has already invested upwards of billions of dollars in Haiti, and most Americans understand the humanitarian nature of our response and agree with that. However, I don’t think it’s fair to expect the American taxpayers to continue to help fun elections that are overthrown because the parties are dissatisfied with the outcome. So, ‘Let’s have another one because we don’t like who won.’
“So can you give us an assessment of what the current programs are in Haiti and at this point are they eligible to continue to receive U.S. tax dollars after what we’ve seen now in the last year and a half?”
“The biggest complaint we get when we interact with them is they want us to coordinate more of our aid through the government, even if it’s not government to government. They wanted us to use their locally based organizations, the people that they pick. And I guess my point is, I’m as sympathetic as anyone in the Senate about what’s happening in Haiti and the plight and the situation that they’re facing. I also have, at this point, very low confidence, perhaps no confidence, that the people they tell us we should be working through are the right people, given the history, both electorally and otherwise. We are sympathetic there, believe me, I care deeply about what’s happening there. But what I’ve seen out of the political class in Haiti, I should say for close to eighty years, but certainly over the last few, is unacceptable.
“And I hope as we continue to look for ways to continue to engage there that what you are saying here if it is in fact the direction we’re on, that we continue to be on. I’ll say it point blank. I have zero confidence that if the Haitian government tells us, ‘We want you to work through this group versus that group,’ that there is not some deep level of corruption or even political influence at play. And I’m out of time, but we also saw, as well, Senator Grassley’s report about the lack of gains that the Red Cross made in Haiti. And we’re also deeply concerned about that, obviously that’s not taxpayer dollars, but that is the sort of challenge we face there and continue to face there.
“It is a place where even if you want to help, often times, it becomes impossible, because someone needs to get paid off to make it possible. And so I just wanted to lay out the point, this is not a forever proposition here, there has to be some progress there or I can’t justify to taxpayers, no matter how deeply moved I am about the circumstances there, that we’re going to continue to pour money into a black hole, where the money doesn’t come out in a positive way.”